7 Lost Words of The Church (Words 5-7)

Words give us the ability to think. So it stands to reason, the more words we add to our vocabulary, the better we are able to think. My friend, Dr. Louis Markos calls poetry the “highest art form” for this very reason. The myriad layers of emotion and meaning expressed by poetry come from words. Words are parlous. Words are impervious. Words are exact.

When tribes of people (i.e. churches) neglect to incorporate essential words, they lose a vital part of who they were created to be. It could be termed as a “censorship of essence.”

Here are seven words that I feel the church has somehow lost.

1. Imagination 2. Pleasure 3. Creativity 4. Sensuality (Click words 1-4  to read Part One of this post)

5. Freedom — “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” This quote by Mahatma Ghandi challenges the dysfunctional control of the westernized Christian Church. Paraphrased from Sex, Lies & Religion, “Why, through the centuries, has the Church worked so hard to control her people? Perhaps because true grace is so wild and free. God’s grace represents a kind of freedom that is hard (not impossible—hard) for organized religion to deal with.

God has given each of His children the difficult gift of free will. The church, like a jealous mother, feels threatened and demands a co-dependent relationship with her children. What makes the church jealous of our freedom? Could it be that she fears what freedom can do to her children and consequently instills a co-dependent fear in us in order to protect us from ourselves?

Nurturing this dysfunctional connection requires rigid control and excessive rules and so the wilder aspects of Christianity, such as sex and sexuality, are deemed taboo in the name of God’s ‘love.’ This seems rather ironic in light of Jesus Christ’s teaching in John 8:32: ‘We shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free.’ Instead of setting her children free, the institutional church by its very nature tends to nurture a co-dependent relationship.

The church believes that freedom gives each of us the power to create and also to destroy. She knows a sex drive that makes love and babies can also lead to divorce and murder. Likewise, the freedom given an artist to paint a nude body has the power to glorify the wonder of creation, but it also has the power to titillate and degrade.

The challenge for the mother church today lies in relinquishing control and exhibiting mercy and grace instead of shame and judgment. When we walk through the struggles of real life (and more of us have than not) functional and unconditional love promises that we walk not through judgment but to freedom. The unconditional love of God leads to a life of freedom and transforms each day into a potentially wild adventure.

Dysfunction comes when we intertwine the church and God and view them as one. We often forget that both church and religion consist of wayward leaders and broken people just like us. Our Creator alone earned the right to act as our ultimate authority and thus is worthy to receive the reciprocal gifts of intimacy and wild abandonment. Rather, He knows that no matter how much we struggle with Him, in our desperate and wayward searching, if we genuinely seek Truth, we will ultimately fall safely back into His arms.”

6. Beauty — “Beauty…is the shadow of God on the universe.” – Gabriela Mistral. Another paraphrased portion of Sex, Lies & Religion, “Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) lived at a critical time in history when the arrival of translated versions of Aristotle’s body of work reopened the question of the relation between faith and reason. Aquinas had extraordinary qualifications as a priest but was also a philosopher and theologian and musician. Umberto Eco writes in The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas, ‘when Aquinas wrote about beauty and artistic form he was not dealing with mere abstractions, cut off from experience. He was referring, implicitly, to a world which he knew well.’

Aquinas writes in his magnificent work Summa Theologica that three things are needed for beauty: harmony, wholeness and radiance.

Harmony (Aquinas calls it proportio) refers to the arrangement of the parts of a work and the sum of the relationships between them. Harmonic notes in music are separate, yet they move together while complementing one another.
Wholeness (Aquinas calls it integritas) exists in a work that lacks nothing essential to its full being. It provides a full understanding and portrayal; something that is complete in all its parts.
Radiance (Aquinas calls it claritas) speaks of that which makes a thing clearly seen for what it is. It is that feeling that goes with you as you depart. You feel as if you leave a better person having been in the presence of true beauty.

These elements of beauty may help resolve a personal dilemma when we next face the question of beauty in an art gallery, on a beach, or on a computer screen. They provide guidelines for the artist or viewer to understand whether the creation they encounter is beautiful or pornographic. Beauty portrayed or viewed utilizing these premises embodies the glory of the creator rather than an objectification of his creation.”

7. Relationship — “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” We have made church a destination, not a conversation. And when we rush in and out of church in the busyness of our lives while listening only to a talking head, we are practicing what my pastor Pete Wilson calls “mutual masturbation.”

Relationship is much more than a weekly small group or large gathering. It is leaving footprints on the hearts. Living life together means celebrating the greatest joy and grieving the deepest sorrow together. It is open, non-judgmental, grace-filled conversations into the wee hours of the early morning when necessary. It is self-less love, no matter what it costs. It is total confidentiality and unconditional respect.

Relationship is communion. Relationship is sacramental. In this sense, sacrament defined is “powerfully binding.”

Yet another paraphrase from Sex, Lies & Religion, “Just as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created us and ‘shares in common’ with each other and with us, we then also create and share communion with each other and with the Trinity through our relationships. So then, in a divine and mysterious way, ‘relationship becomes an earthly representation in some sense of the inner life of the Trinity and the union of God with humanity.’

Each time we attend church or liturgy, we see in essence a representation of the Trinity. We find in our relationships a tangible way to make the invisible divine mystery visible.

Relationships provide an opportunity to create an earthly representation of a divine mystery. The Catechism says, “God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”

Pope John Paul II states it this way: ‘God is an eternal Communion of Persons.’ The term communion is derived from Latin communio, which means ‘sharing in common.’ For some unknown reason, God has decided to create and share in communion with mankind. And it is only right that we emulate and spread God’s love by sharing deep communion with others.”

Is there another word you feel the church has lost?

Do you agree? Disagree?

Why?

14 Responses to “7 Lost Words of The Church (Words 5-7)”

  1. “Dysfunction comes when we intertwine the church and God and view them as one.” Randy, I agree with this statement. In fact, I think we sometimes make God secondary to our churches and their doctrines. Here’s a question to think about–how many of us read the Bible in the context of our church doctrines and how many of us read it just to find out what it says? There’s a huge difference.
    .-= patriciazell´s last blog ..#47 THE RETURN OF CHRIST: THE PLOT, PART 2 =-.

  2. I fear we may have confused freedom for licentiousness. Since when did freedom mean there weren’t rules? Even God’s grace has rules. The law of God was/is a gift of his grace. Indeed, by claiming God’s grace as some sort of an excuse to go and do bad things, are we not making it into a cheap matter?

    It is an irresponsible parent who allows a child to play on the edge of a cliff without the due limits and fencing to stop them from falling to destruction.

    That said, shame and judgement are too often associated with the church. Heres one though. Can we suggest that the church is shaped by it’s leaders. And thus, begins to look like them. And so, the shame and judgement are really projections of their own insecurities and fears, the high bar they are expected to reach without any help. It’s so tempting to blame the church, but there are real human beings hiding behind that institution, real broken ones at that.

    How can we, then, show grace to our church leaders, that they can be liberated from their shame and guilt?
    .-= Ian´s last blog ..Green Day Gospel =-.

    • @Ian, Thanks for joining the conversation, Ian. I understand what you are saying, but I fear we have substituted freedom for control. There is a huge difference between boundaries and dysfunctional control. For example, repression leads to serious psychological issues and that same example creates a child that cannot make decisions for himself and has significant psychological issues. So, hopefully there is the proper perspective of freedom and truth.

  3. First things first: Congratulations! USA is through in the World Cup.

    I’ve thought about what the church might be missing. But then I can only think what’s missing here in the churches. The church I go now is going through a lot of changes. It’s hurting a lot of people because they don’t want to change but the younger ones, like me, wants change because God is not a God who stands still. It’s a God who moves. We have to go forward and this church has been the same for generations and all they have is old stuff and old people with the same old rules. What I would like is (com)passion. I miss that here.

    I agree what you wrote about freedom.

    Your explanation about beauty is just beautiful if I understand you. I love this: “Beauty is the shadow of God on the universe”. I believe all beauty is from God. I believe we are beautiful because we are made to His image and He is beautiful and therefor everything we create is beautiful. Am I still clear here? Okay, maybe everyone has his own taste but still I believe we can create something beautiful. And if we know this than we can look different, in a better way to each other, even in the church.

    And I totally agree on what you wrote on relationship.

    If I got it all wrong please correct me. Thanks.

    Thank you SO much for sharing. I think you are a very gifted man. I believe you are pleasant to be with. I’ve quit many blogs after a while but yours…. I guess I like your blog because I keep coming back. You think that has to do with the owner of the blog? Don’t have to answer the last question, I’m just teasing.

    • @Ani, Ha, Ani. Your comments are always so touching to me. Thanks so much. I love your quote: “God is not a God who stands still.” So very true!!

  4. It seems to me we’ve left out the word inclusive. We are so busy as congregations sometimes worrying that messiness will enter our church family that we forget the very sin that makes us messy is what Jesus came to save us from. While history has shown demonstrated methods of excluding from the body those who continue to sin, I find that there is a difference between excluding that which is messy and including those who are hurting…or worse…numb enough that emotions are no longer experienced. We keep trying to define sins as big or small, large or minor…when the truth is anything that separates us from desiring to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance means its too noisy…even if that’s the teacher teaching….if we’re so busy following “doctrine” that we forget the Physician who heals…and whose methods are rarely expected or predictable…pride comes up in a thousand ways…and one of the most dangerous is the pious pride of thinking we are somehow better than another…

    Randy, you are a remarkable writer…and more importantly, your writing encourages discussion, thought, and for me at least, more research into what I truly believe versus accept as beliefs…
    .-= Sweetie Berry´s last blog ..and then there was another… =-.

  5. Randy,

    I love you. I have never met you face to face but I love you.

    The second greatest regret of my life is that, as a 26 year pastor, I just couldn’t muster the courage to build the church of which you speak. I was not a pastor who banned those words. I was just a pastor who didn’t have the courage to regularly speak them. Banned words and unspoken words have the same result don’t they? My heart called for that kind of authentic, intellectually honest, grace filled community. I nudged the churches that I lead closer to that kind of community than the other churches in my grouping. But, my pride, ego and insecurity demanded I build a larger church, so that my friends would call me successful. So instead of doing the things my heart called me to do…. I made decisions that wouldn’t shrink the market share or the Sunday offering. The churches I pastored grew for 23 straight years. I shrunk. The last 3 years I died slowly, afraid to walk away.

    One day I am going to fly to Tennessee just to break bread with you and share one conversation. You are a rare and remarkable chunk of human. Thank you for being one hell of a Randy Elrod. You do it better than anyone I know.

    peace
    jessie simon

  6. my experience is that relationship gets lost when task or purpose-driven friendships are the focus of church life. They never last, and it’s devestating when you come to the realisation that there was not deep and lasting friendship where you thought there was.
    .-= Michelle George´s last blog ..Race report: Canada Day Fun Run =-.

  7. Relationships are a difficult area for me right now – I’ve found through years of being a point leader that it’s really hard to make real friends. Somehow they feel they cant be your friends coz your the ‘boss’ or somehow that I dont need them. I have to admit as an introvert I do find it harder to make friends but I also know that I need community and need it soon. How do I go about finding community when we’re all so reluctant to let people in?
    .-= Ed´s last blog ..A Change in Direction =-.

    • @Ed, Ed, It definitely takes a measure of vulnerability, but the reward is so worth the risk. It may be that is someone outside your sphere of influence.

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